Opinion

Editorial— Governments, oil companies co-conspirators in gas gouging

A poll conducted by Insights West, in conjunction with Black Press, shows that high gas prices are having a significant effect on people’s day-to-day lives.

Those polled quite correctly identified the two major culprits — all levels of government, through taxation policies; and the oil companies themselves.

B.C.’s gas prices are consistently the highest in the country. This is due solely to taxation. In particular, the provincial carbon tax, which adds almost seven cents per litre to the cost of gasoline, and the TransLink tax of 17 cents per litre, push gas prices much higher than they are in other parts of Canada, and even other parts of B.C. Drivers in Metro Vancouver pay a minimum of 41 cents per litre in taxation.

Those are only two of the many government hands in our pockets when we fill up. The provincial government takes another cut, which is actually lower in Metro Vancouver than in other parts of the province. That’s becaise the province gives over some of its taxation share to TransLink.

The federal government also takes a large share. It takes 10 cents per litre, plus GST. It actually charges GST on the taxes, as well as the product. This is unfair and should not be permitted. As all taxes are rolled into the price at the pump,  many people are unaware of this naked tax grab.

The federal government is proud of its take. It just announced how it plans to “share” this ill-gotten revenue with local governments over the next 10 years. In other words, there will be no tax relief any time soon on that front.

Those surveyed by Insights West said they are driving less and using transit, or walking, more. These are reasonable alternatives to high gas prices, but the transit alternative doesn’t work for most Langley residents. Only about three per cent use transit regularly, as there are few bus routes and most do not go quickly to places that most Langley residents regularly travel to.

The oil companies come in for some criticism from poll respondents, and while it is not all deserved, the companies do not have completely clean hands.

The price of fuel regularly jumps up late at night — for no good reason, other than to force people heading to work in the morning who need gas to pay more. The prices  almost always fall by four to five cents a litre by the noon hour.

Those polled say oil companies often raise prices before long weekends — and this too does happen on occasion.

Another area where oil companies reap unconscionable profits involves premium grades of gasoline. While U.S. oil companies tend to charge 10 cents a gallon more for premium, in Canada, the price difference is 10 cents a litre — or about 38 cents a (U.S.) gallon.

They clearly take advantage of people who do not pay attention to the difference between a litre and a gallon.

If government wasn’t so complicit in keeping gas prices high, it might be worthwhile to ask it to be more vigilant about some of the obvious unfairness in pricing. But when it comes to gas and diesel prices, all the players, including all levels of government, have dirty hands.

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